Ward pours praise on Tounkara
Mon, 01 Apr 2013 21:43:00
A Dimitar Berbatov brace ensured 10-man Fulham gained sweet revenge over relegation-threatened QPR in a thrilling 3-2 victory at Craven Cottage.
The Cottagers, who were beaten by their West London neighbours earlier in the season, got off to the perfect start and went three up.
Bulgarian Berbatov scored in his fourth consecutive game as he calmly rolled home an early penalty before adding a second soon after.
An own goal by Clint Hill gave the Cottagers a seemingly unassailable lead, but Adel Taarabt's strike late in the first half gave QPR a glimmer of hope.
Loic Remy then saw his penalty saved by Mark Schwarzer before making amends just minutes later.
Harry Redknapp's side could not find the equaliser and now remain seven points from safety with seven games of the season remaining.
Last season QPR suffered an embarrassing 6-0 defeat at Craven Cottage and it looked like there could be a similar scoreline after a dominant first-half display by the hosts.
Marquee January signing Christopher Samba gifted the Cottagers their first two goals, bringing down Ashkan Dejagah to allow Berbatov to net an eighth-minute penalty. Things got worse soon after when Samba lost possession of the ball on the edge of his own box, allowing Berbatov to coolly slot home past Julio Cesar.
Chants of "going down" echoed around Craven Cottage when Hill put a John Arne Riise cross into his goal, but QPR rallied and launched the unlikeliest of comebacks.
Taarabt, who stormed out at half-time of last season's Craven Cottage encounter, reduced the deficit on the stroke of half-time firing low past Mark Schwarzer.
Six minutes into the second half, referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot after Giorgos Karagounis was fooled by the quick feet of Taarabt, but Remy's penalty was saved to his left by Mark Schwarzer.
The France international, though, soon made amends, losing marker Philippe Senderos and continuing forward before thrashing home off the underside of the bar.
The veteran Australian had to be at his best for the rest of the match and, despite Steve Sidwell's late sending off, Fulham held on, condemning QPR to a potentially season-defining defeat and leaving their Premier League status in serious danger.
After the final whistle, QPR boss Redknapp was in no mood to make excuses for his side's defensive display in the opening 45 minutes.
He told Sky Sports: "A disastrous first half cost us, they were the worst goals I've seen in my life. They were scandalous goals. It was an absolute disaster."
Meanwhile, Fulham manager Martin Jol admitted he was pleased with the three points but disappointed his side let QPR back into the match.
"It was a great game for the spectators," the Dutchman said.
"Overall it was a bit disappointing at 3-0 up and then you make it difficult for yourself."
Jamie Cureton had given the Grecians a half-time lead but two goals in the final three minutes from Ian Henderson and Bobby Grant did the damage for Dale.
Defeat for Exeter sees them clinging on to a play-off place after a poor Easter in which they lost twice.
"It was terribly disappointing because it happened so late in the game," Tisdale said. "With five minutes to go we were leading 1-0 and you just hope you can hang on considering how poor we were.
"You hope you can hang on and to be at that point and then concede so late, and then an injury-time winner, is very disappointing.
"We have lost the game but we are still in the play-off zone and we still have six games to go, so I can spin positives from it, but it feels so disappointing because of how poor we were as a team.
"I have not seen one of my teams play so poorly for a long, long time and we struggled to put passes together or play any meaningful forward play at all.
"I used words on Saturday like fractured and not being cohesive and there being no fluidity to our play, and it needs experience to tidy the play and keep things together and it was the same again here."
Two goals in the final three minutes from Ian Henderson and Bobby Grant did the damage for Dale, while defeat for Exeter sees them clinging on to a play-off place after a poor Easter in which they lost twice.
"It's a great result, it's a result we needed because we don't want to create any pressure on us and that takes a bit of pressure off with three home games to play," Hill said.
"The performance wasn't the late, late show - the goals were, but we deserved it. We played well and deserved to win the game.
"It is a big step in the direction towards us and most of the teams below us have four games to play, so hopefully, we can start planning for next year and get ourselves safe as soon as possible."
Hill was especially delighted with his two goalscorers as well as striker George Donnelly, who he believes can follow in the footsteps of Premier League striker Grant Holt.
"When you are losing, you keep your goalscorers on the pitch. You can't score of they are on the bench," Hill said. "Bobby was anonymous at times, but he has a lot to learn.
"With respect to George Donnelly, I thought his all-round performance was superb. I said to him afterwards: 'Isn't it about time you found a footballing home and settled down and started to learn?'
"I think he could maybe become the next Grant Holt. They are very similar if I am being honest with you. He is my type of player."
The visitors stormed into a commanding early lead as John-Joe O'Toole, Oumare Tounkara and Danny Woodards all found the net, before the Daggers pulled a goal back before half-time through Ben Strevens.
Tounkara registered his second goal in the 70th minute, with substitute Jake Reed tapping home Femi Ilesanmi's cross to make it 4-2 but it proved mere consolation.
After presiding over a fifth match without a win, Burnett said: "Once you concede three goals inside the opening 20 minutes in a game you're always going to be up against it.
"That's certainly been the case. We've lost concentration too many times at the back and we've ended up giving ourselves a massive mountain to climb.
"Fair play to Bristol, they've been clinical up front, but we can't be defending in that fashion.
"If we're not careful we're going to be getting ourselves dragged into trouble. We're a few games without a win now and that's a concern.
"The players are down now and that's not surprising, but we need to get back to the kind of play we know we are capable of producing.
"A bad home defeat doesn't make you a bad side overnight. We've got to move on from this very quickly."
After a handful of substitute appearances, Paris-born Tounkara was finally handed his first Rovers start having arrived on a short-term deal at the end of February, and he repaid Ward's faith in some style.
"I was really pleased Oumare got through the full 90 minutes," Ward said. "He is a real threat and he's got that power which can give opposition defences plenty of headaches at this level.
"He has lifted the team most certainly and he's an unselfish lad too. He was through for his hat-trick late on, but instead he squared the ball for Ryan Brunt who had a chance himself to score. That's a good additional quality to have.
"He's only had bits and pieces of opportunities with us so far, but he's worked himself into my thinking now of course. This was definitely his day and everyone was pleased for the lad."
Looking back on the win overall - in which John-Joe O'Toole and Danny Woodards also netted - Ward added: "I knew the lads would need a huge physical effort just 48 hours after a tough game on Saturday, but they've delivered. That's testament to our backroom staff. The fitness levels among the players are really high.
"We showed a few little negatives, but the young lads in particular have battled hard and you can see the work-ethic is there.
"We've just got to keep going until the end of the season now. There will be no easing off or anything of that nature.
"We've had terrific support here again and we owe that to every single one of our fans."
Ward confirmed that goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall limped out of the pre-match warm-up with an ankle injury.